“Web” Category

Mixel

Khoi Vinh just announced his new company, and it’s Mixel, a social collage-making app for iPad.

It lets you make collages—Mixels—from included photos, your own, or ones you pick up from the collages other people are creating. Mixels are saved and posted publicly for everyone to see and build on themselves.

Here’s Khoi Vinh explaining the idea for it:

Even better, for the very first time in decades of personal computing history, we have an ideal digital art device in the hands of a mass audience, a huge and still-growing user base composed not just of professional artists and early adopters, but of people from all walks of life who are embracing the liberating simplicity of this new platform.

That’s big. It changes what’s possible for visual self-expression in a huge way. Now anyone can do this — anyone. They just need the right software. Creating that software is what my co-founder Scott Ostler and I are trying to do with our new company.

It looks quite well done and it’s certainly an interesting idea that I think is a natural fit for children especially, but it does require connecting it to your Facebook account to use. That doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others, especially because this is an inherently social application and I don’t think Khoi would allow his application to abuse it, but that does limit its users to people old enough to have an account. Why not allow people to create their own Mixel-specific account if they’d prefer it?

I may be way off on this, but I think children are the biggest group of potential users for this kind of application, and it should take advantage of it to drive its use. I’m sure plenty of adults will use it, but kids are the ones who can see it as a way to create something really fun and meaningful to them, rather than just a trivial app to goof around with. So get those users, get kids hooked on it, and build off of that into something even greater. I’m not sure targeting adults is the best strategy for Mixel.

November 10th, 2011

Raven

Raven is a new web browser for the Mac.

They have some great ideas, and it’s also nice to see someone trying to make web browsers better. That’s something we haven’t seen in a long time, besides Google and Apple.

November 10th, 2011

Steve Jobs’s Thoughts on Flash

Seems like a good time to revisit Steve Jobs’s thoughts on Flash:

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

November 9th, 2011

The Atlantic’s Profile of Moonbot Studios

Moonbot Studios is the group that built the inventive and beautiful “Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” iPad app/interactive book, and the Atlantic has wonderful profile of the group:

A color image of the cityscape shows up on screen with a triangle of pale blue sky at the top left of the image. Everyone ooohs. Ellis immediately starts noting its flaws. “This is just me playing around with color,” she says. “I wanted to play with the buildings. So, yeah, it’s not done. Eventually there will be Numberlies and letters.”

Joyce, sitting down near her, starts to imagine a different blue in the sky. He sounds as if he’s talking from a long way away. “What if that blue in the sky was really old Technicolor?” Joyce says. “That crazy fucking Technicolor blue. You saw some of it in A Star is Born. You can have it drop off, but have the really crazy blue in there.” His laser pointer flashes to the spot of sky. “Do that Star Is Born Blue.”

They’re using the iPad to build an altogether new medium for storytelling and are making beautiful artwork. I’m skeptical about integrating game-like elements into text and animation-based stories, but there’s huge potential with combining text and animation into a cohesive whole to tell a story. (And, more importantly, I’m not really the target demographic for these “books”—kids are—and they seem to love it.) I’m just excited to see a group creating a truly new way to tell stories, and by all accounts, making some great stories.

What’s interesting, too, is this kind of stuff shows the limits of the App Store for selling “applications” and iOS’s round-rectangle icon for managing them. Should “applications” like this really be sold the same way as, say, a Twitter app, and accessed the same way on iOS devices, too? I don’t think so. It doesn’t feel right. It feels almost like it’s devaluing this application by representing it the same way as any other, because it’s something else entirely. It’s a new kind of media, and should be treated as such.

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November 7th, 2011

The Rands T-Shirt

Michael Lopp is selling Rands In Repose t-shirts again. All profits from shirt sales go to First Book, a group promoting children’s literacy. As usual, a great shirt for a great cause.

November 7th, 2011

Fusion Ads Bought by BuySellAds

Fusion Ads was purchased by BuySellAds.

I’m skeptical it’s going to work out, but regardless, best of luck to Chris Bowler with whatever it is he does next. You won’t meet a nicer, more caring guy.

November 3rd, 2011

Square’s Automatic Tab

Square just updated their Card Case iPhone app with a new feature: automatic tabs. Basically, you can now walk into stores that support Square and pay without ever taking out your phone or wallet. Pretty neat.

November 2nd, 2011

Steven Levy’s Profile of Nest

From Steven Levy’s profile of Nest:

Though Fadell isn’t specific, he says that the company may offer more services, perhaps ones that bring more money to Nest. For the long-term, Nest plans to move beyond thermostats and exploit similar green opportunities in the way that only a tech company can. This particularly excites Nest’s investors.

“The Internet so far has been a collection of connected people. We think that the next step is connected devices,” says Randy Komisar, of Kleiner Perkins. “This could be the edge device that drives other things connected to the home.”

Nest can also be a model for another phenomenon: applying the skills of Silicon Valley to transform other seemingly mundane but nonetheless important objects.

I love this. They’re tackling something that we all assumed was boring, would always be boring, and there was nothing we could really do. And they’re turning it into something exciting.

October 26th, 2011

Nest

Tony Fadell, who was in charge of the iPod division at Apple and left the company in 2008, just announced his new company: Nest. And their product is a thermostat.

Yeah, a thermostat. Here’s his idea: thermostats control about 50% of our monthly energy bill, but they suck. They’re ugly and their user interfaces are terrible.

So Fadell and his team designed a new thermostat that’s kind of beautiful (and that says a lot), and learns the home it’s in. The temperature you like when you get up in the morning, when you go to bed, and when you leave for work—so you can turn off the AC or heat while you’re gone and save money.

Here’s Fadell explaining his motivation for Nest to TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy.

I love this. I love seeing smart people attack old products and industries that haven’t gotten better for years, and are things we put up with, rather than love. I hope it’s a big success for them.

October 25th, 2011

Chris Bowler’s Review of the Ethical Coffee Chain

Chris Bowler reviews coffee from the Ethical Coffee Chain:

All right, sermon over. How does the Gus’s coffee taste? I must admit, there was a slight worry that I would be supporting a good cause, but drinking sub par coffee. After the first pound, I’m happy to say this is not the case. These beans are on par with what I would buy from Starbucks or Kicking Horse Coffee.

For context, I’ve tasted this coffee in an Aeropress, a French Press and a run-of-the-mill drip brewer. A clean, bold cup is the result in each. I sadly still use a cheap blade grinder, so getting a great cup of coffee with this setup speaks to how good the beans are.

It’s a really great idea started by some really great people, and Chris says the coffee is good—so what’s not to like?

October 24th, 2011

Using Siri to Add Reminders to a Shared List

Shawn Blanc explains how to add reminders to a shared list using Siri so you can, for example, share a reminders list with your spouse and remind them to pick up dark chocolate covered almonds while at Trader Joes (because, let’s be honest, you can never have enough).

It’s a bit convoluted to get set up, and you have to follow a specific syntax while telling Siri to add the reminder, but it works. This is some big time yeah, okay, I’m living in the future kind of stuff right here.

October 20th, 2011

“I don’t believe your phone should be an assistant”

Andy Rubin doesn’t think phones should be an “assistant”:

“I don’t believe that your phone should be an assistant,” the Android chief said in an interview on Wednesday just after appearing on stage at AsiaD. “Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”

Odd, considering Android’s voice actions aren’t very different in the sense he’s talking about.

October 19th, 2011

Shawn Blanc’s iPhone 4S Review

Shawn Blanc:

My first impression of Siri is that Siri is to the GUI what the GUI is to the command line. Meaning, using Siri is a far easier and quicker way to navigate certain tasks than using iPhone’s multi-touch user interface.

That’s a smart way of describing how big of a deal Siri is. Even in its first incarnation, it’s incredibly useful—being able to send and reply to texts and emails, and create calendar events, reminders and alarms all by voice makes these tasks much, much easier. I tend not to set reminders for myself because it’s too much of a pain to go through each task and set it up, but doing it by voice would make it almost effortless.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far we’ve advanced in five years. In 2006, my best mobile device was a color iPod with a scroll wheel that had no WiFi, let alone apps; in 2011, it’s a touch-screen, 3G device that can browse the web, hold all of my media, communicate with anyone, and now I can accomplish tasks just through voice. That’s mind-blowing, and makes me wonder just how far from here we’ll be in another five years.

October 17th, 2011

Disrupting an Old Industry

Publishers are (rightly) running scared because of Amazon:

“Everyone’s afraid of Amazon,” said Richard Curtis, a longtime agent who is also an e-book publisher. “If you’re a bookstore, Amazon has been in competition with you for some time. If you’re a publisher, one day you wake up and Amazon is competing with you too. And if you’re an agent, Amazon may be stealing your lunch because it is offering authors the opportunity to publish directly and cut you out.

“It’s an old strategy: divide and conquer,” Mr. Curtis said.

It’s not surprising (or interesting) that the publishing industry is being disrupted by Amazon. That’s a result of technological change, and if it wasn’t Amazon, it would have been someone else. Agents and publishers depended on exclusivity—to get published, you had to know the right people—and that is no longer the case with the web.

But what is interesting is that Amazon is now an end-to-end provider of books and other written pieces. They make deals with writers directly (or allow them to sell their work on the Amazon store), sell directly to readers, and sell the device customers read on. Amazon is setting up a feedback loop where writers are pressured to sell their books to Amazon because so many people use it, readers are pressured to use it because all they can read on their Kindles are Kindle books, and soon, because Amazon will have exclusive access to certain books.

Long-term, I don’t think that’s going to last. If digital books are going to become the main way that we read, we will need a way to, one, read from a multitude of sources and two, more importantly, ensure that our purchased books will continue to be usable in the future.

October 17th, 2011

Instapaper 4

Marco Arment just released Instapaper 4, and it’s beautiful. What a great update to one of my favorite (and most used) applications.

October 17th, 2011